Just A Little & Brotherhood Sound System Present Bonobo (DJ), Gilles Peterson & More
Friday 24th April
Canal Mills, Leeds
There are few artists who succeed in creating music that is universally appealing while also being distinctively and uniquely ‘their sound’. Bonobo is one such artist, with his mix of samples, live instrumentation and guest vocals creating a new sonic palette for every release. It was therefore no surprise how quickly the tickets sold for Bonobo at Canal Mills last Friday, nor the buzz felt in Leeds that evening as fans readied for one of the city’s most anticipated events of this year.
Bonobo’s live sets for his album tours are famous for utilising a full live band and delivering an experience that lives up to the mood created by such accomplished studio albums. Less has been written about his DJ sets, despite the fact that he has been djing since the very start of his career, but there is no doubt that the set delivered – both for the hardcore fan of his music and for those who are simply interested in the current landscape of UK dance music.
The set began at 2am with Prelude into Kiara, with the explosive response from the crowd demonstrating that one of the best opening sequences to an album in recent years works just as effectively in a club setting. He continued to deliver many of his classics, with the downtempo Kong coming early on ranging through to the more hard-hitting Know You and last year’s Flashlight, and the expert mixing of Cirrus’s meditative thumb piano samples delivering one of the most exciting moments of the night. This was definitely a proudly crowd-pleasing set - yet one of its greatest achievements was how perfectly it struck the balance between a showcase of Bonobo’s own productions and those of his contemporaries and influences. If the dancers were paying tribute to their now long-running love for Bonobo’s music, he was using the space inbetween his own tracks to pay tribute to the wider UK dance scene. This was demonstrated with Kieran Hebden’s KHLHI and The Track I’ve Been Playing… - with the latter’s powerful field-recording-esque vocals nodding to Bonobo’s world music influences - and other highlights including Leon Vynehall’s Butterflies and Floating Points’ Nuits Sonores. Equally impressive was the pace and energy of the set and how the selections were perfectly attuned to the energy of the crowd, with every track coming at the perfect moment and the applause that accompanied every break getting louder and more sustained throughout the night.
This was one night you didn’t want to arrive late for, with the impeccable Gilles Peterson holding down the main dancefloor from midnight until 2am with a boldly eclectic set, playing Dave Brubeck’s jazz classic Take Five (I wasn’t the only person shaking my head in giddy disbelief that we actually heard Take Five in a club just hours before seeing Bonobo DJ), Brazilian beats and ending with Bileo’s anthemic You Can Win. Room Two also provided a more intimate vibe with Werkha and Stephen Howe keeping it high energy throughout, and Dan Shake’s hour set to close the main floor was the perfect end to the night, starting with the French house classic Rose Rouge moving to euphoric funk and soul later on.
This was an excellent showcase of one of the UK’s great multitalented artists and one who there is no doubt is still moving forward. While his live sets are widely known to be an incredible experience, this also proved that his DJing deserves the same reputation, and that if anything he could become a more regular part of the UK club scene. Perhaps though, it is the rarity of the occasion that makes it all the more special, and makes us all the more lucky to have such exceptional albums to listen to in the time between.
Words by Tom O'Rourke
Image courtesy of Christopher Werrett